City College Shuts Down Student Center

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City College student organizer Taff Sourov (right) confronts a police officer in the entrance of the North Academic Center (NAC) at City College. Credit: Percy Lujan.

By The Meridian editor.

City College closed the Guillermo Morales-Assata Shakur Community and Student Center, an educational and organizing space founded on 1989 by leftist student groups, on Sunday morning without alerting the students and activists who work inside.

The Morales-Shakur Center runs independently from college control and it is administered by activists within City College and the community to organize actions in support of their causes.

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Students pasted signs condemning the closing of the center on the NAC entrance.

“This morning I got a text saying that the Morales-Shakur Center was under attack, and I ran here as soon as I could,” said Alyssia Osorio, a City College student and director of the Shakur-Morales Center. “Every single campus building was shut down. I saw that they took away our table and everything out of the center, and they replaced our sign with Career and Professional Development Institute.”

David Suker, a City College alumnus and activist at the center, saw the NYPD and the campus safety officers taking down the posters and materials inside the center. Suker was arrested around 11:30 a.m. after refusing to stand away from the center’s entrance. He was taken away handcuffed to a gurney. Details regarding his injuries were not revealed.

Starting around 12 p.m., the NYPD proceeded to closing all access to the North Academic Center (NAC) building, where the Morales-Shakur Center is located in the third floor. Students who were inside the library at the time were told that they would have to stay inside the building otherwise they would not be able to go reenter.

The City College library inside the NAC is open 24/7 for three weeks during finals and midterms, in part due to the actions by organizers from the Morales-Shakur Center. Because of this the library is used by students from other CUNY schools, including Lehman.

At approximately 4 p.m., access to the library was reestablished but only to students with a City College ID.

“There are 23 CUNY safety officers blocking all stairways,” said Glenda Ullauri, a City College student present during the lockdown. “They are corralling you into the library.”

At 5:15 p.m. Diedre Hill, the City College vice-president for communications and marketing, read a statement saying that the Career and Professional Development Institute, which operates in the first floor of the building and was launched in the Spring 2012, was expanded to a space on the third floor – the space that hosted the Morales-Shakur Center.

“All contents in the third floor room prior to the expansion are in storage for safekeeping and documentation so they can be redistributed accordingly,” read Hill and proceeded to reenter the NAC as the students present chanted “Shame, shame, shame” behind her.

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Diedre Hill, City Collge’s vice-president of communications and marketing, reading the press statement.

Hill, who has two months working at the college, gave no word regarding whether the Morales-Shakur Center will be transferred to another location. She said that she had no knowledge of the existence of the center prior to that day.

“I am disturbed by the lack of communication by CCNY administration. Undergraduate Student Government along with the student groups who used the MSCC were not informed about the new plan for student space usage,” said the City College Undergraduate Student Government President Mel Niere in a press statement. “VP Hill has not only stated the Morales/Shakur Community Center will be replaced, but all student material within the center will be reviewed by administration. The Undergraduate Student Government of CCNY is reaching out to CUNY student governments, local politicians and CCNY administration officials regarding the situation.”

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who chairs Higher Education Committee at the City Council, was with students early in the morning outside City College “We got 3/201 [the room number of the center] as a result of the takeover that we did 1989,” he said.

Morales was a Puerto Rican nationalist member of the Fuarzas Armadas por la Liberación Nacional, a Puerto Rican separatist organization active during the 70s which took responsibility of several bombing in New York. Assata Shakur was a member of the Black Panther Party who on 1973 was found guilty of the death of a New Jersey state trooper. Both of them were granted political asylum in Cuba after they escaped captivity.

Osorio said that last Friday gender identity was included into the college’s anti-discrimination policy. As an organizer for two years she also saw the designation of on section of the campus was as LGBTQ safe space, as well as other resources for the community.

“It was a place where students and the community could organize around issues that were pertinent to them,” said Rakim Amalu Jenkins, a City College student and member of the Black Student Union. “This [closure] falls in line with the CUNY 6. This falls in line with the Petraeus protests, in line with the repression of Muslim students in campus.”

Students gathered in front of the door confronting the seven police officers guarding the atrium. The police ordered them to move away citing a fire hazard. Student Government members, who joined the protest after the library opened, intervened to conciliate between the students and the police.

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Student gather outside to plan their next actions.

“Student government is against all student space being taken away,” said President Niere. “I do expect for them to student organize, petition, and protest.”

“I will fight tooth and nail for that center to be restored,” said Osorio. “The administration did a terrible thing and exposed their hand as an institution that is not for the community, an institution that is currently attacking the community.”

The students decided to organize a demonstration in front of the college’s NAC building on Monday October 21 at 12:30 p.m.

 

*****Correction*****

In an earlier version of the article we said, “starting around 12 a.m., the NYPD proceeded to closing all access to the North Academic Center (NAC) building.”  This has been corrected to, “starting around 12 p.m., the NYPD proceeded to closing all access to the North Academic Center (NAC) building, where the Morales-Shakur Center is located in the third floor.”

 

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